Exports still elevated – despite partial pull-back in April

For Preliminary merchandise trade data (goods but not services) for April was released.

Recall that this data is on a customs basis and is not seasonally adjusted. Our interpretation, preliminary exports provide a broad guide to the actual number (after seasonal adjustment), imports not so much due to gaps in coverage and variability in the seasonal factor.

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For April:

  • Goods exports, -12.2% after +29.6%, -$4.4bn
  • Goods imports, -5.4% after a +13.3%, -$1.3bn

The story behind the numbers.

A double digit fall in goods exports was as we anticipated. Gold was a key driver, down $1.7bn after a $2.5bn spike. Weaker commodity prices were also a factor.

Recall that in March, exports rebounded from disruption, iron ore from Cyclone Damien and gold from China’s lock-down from late January and through February.

Imports were also impacted in April by lower commodity prices, with fuels down $0.7bn.

Implications

Goods exports, adjusted, down in the order of -7.7%. By way of context, that has goods exports 0.5% above the level at the end of 2019 – a relatively resilient performance.

Goods imports – a relatively high degree of uncertainty – perhaps down by 2.5%. That has imports down by 9% from the end of 2019 – a sizeable fall, on weaker domestic demand.

On those figures, goods trade balance remains sizeable in April, down from the spike to a record high of $10.1bn in March to $8.0bn.

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